Does digital data offer indicators that can be used to monitor marketing effectiveness and predict box office success even before awareness turns into intent? Moviepilot — which studies social data and box office trends — analyzes this weekend’s new movies across Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Google (the methodology behind the numbers is laid out in the appendix below) over the seven days leading up to their release, when marketing campaigns are at their peak.
“Fantastic Four,” 20th Century Fox
Moviepilot Prediction: $35 million
Fox’s “Fantastic Four” opens this weekend as the last superhero film in a summer chock full of them. The reboot has struggled with some less-than-stellar buzz nearly since its inception, and while it’s been strong on social, it will have some trouble heading into the weekend.
The “Fan 4” team has mostly been sticking to the usual Q&As and focusing heavily on promoting the cast, but they’ve also posted a very impressive viral video of a “Human Torch Drone” flying over New York City, ending by igniting a large “Fan 4” logo. The young cast has been out in force on social, with each of the four budding stars promoting to their fairly large social followings.
While “Fan 4” obviously doesn’t have the social stats that “Avengers: Age of Ultron” racked up at the beginning of the summer, it’s also short of “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and last month’s “Ant-Man.” Although it has a similar search and video view count to “Ant-Man,” it’s lagging on Twitter to “Ant-Man’s” 262,000 and is far below “X-Men’s” nearly 700,000 tweets, indicating “Fan 4” is looking at a total in the mid-30s this weekend.
Popular on Variety
“The Gift,” STX Entertainment
Moviepilot Prediction: $11 million
STX will be delivering “The Gift” to the doorstep of thriller fans this weekend, and with a creative digital strategy behind them, the new player in the studio system will look for a solid box office kickoff.
Aside from an inventive press junket hosted at the “home” of Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall), STX also sent creepily personalized gifts to tastemakers in the entertainment space as part of their @YourFriendGordo Twitter push. Gordo, played in the film by director Joel Edgerton, knows more about you than he should, and the eerie and personal touch turned heads on social. Twitter was a key component for the revenge-themed thriller, with influencers and local press signed up to attend screenings via a Twitter-connected RSVP page. @YourFriendGordo would tweet playfully creepy messages (like “I saved you a seat in the theater”) and photos of attendees pulled from Instagram feeds.
“The Gift” is faring well with its social stats — with 11.2 million YouTube views, it’s ahead of recent thrillers “Nightcrawler” and “A Walk Among the Tombstones,” but not quite at the level of “The Boy Next Door.” On Twitter and search, it’s again closest to “A Walk Among the Tombstones,” which took in $12.8 million on opening, indicating “The Gift” will have a similar start around $11 million.
“Ricki and the Flash,” TriStar
Moviepilot Prediction: $7 million
An Academy Awards pedigree is the song Sony/TriStar will sing for Meryl Streep’s latest turn, a “rockstar returns home” dramedy directed by Oscar winner Jonathan Demme and written by fellow statue-holder Diablo Cody. It’s shaping up similarly to the recent “Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” which had a few thousand fewer tweets, but a much higher search at 42,700. Streep’s star power should help with the middling reviews and sparse digital stats. Opening at just 1,600 locations to start, “Ricki” should fall between $6 million and $8 million for its opening weekend.
“Shaun the Sheep Movie,” Lionsgate
Moviepilot Prediction: $6 million
The Aardman clan returns to the mix with the charming “Shaun the Sheep,” already a critical darling (99% on Rotten Tomatoes) and a surprising stalwart on social. The creative team at Lionsgate invited fans to join “Shaun’s Facebook Flock,” and the result is a surprisingly robust 5.6 million page likes, about four times the size of even the “Fantastic Four” page. Fans can also sign up to join the flock on the movie’s website, with a chance to win prizes from the film and even get pictures and videos published in the official “Shaun the Sheep” gallery.
“Shaun” has tapped into younger audiences with a fun app that lets you try out a “Shaun the Sheep” style hairdo at the Top Knot Salon. Teaming up with family-friendly social-media influencers — like MTV teen mom Maci Bookout, with 2 million Instagram followers — helped spread the buzz across various digital platforms. And with 14.5 million views on YouTube and 10,100 on search, “Shaun” could be counting more than just sheep this weekend with an expected return of about $6 million over the three-day.
Tobias Bauckhage (@tbauckhage) is co-founder and CEO of moviepilot.com, a social-media-driven movie community reaching more than 29 million Facebook fans and 30 million monthly unique users. Based on community data, Moviepilot helps studios to optimize their social media campaigns, identifying, analyzing and activating the right audiences. The company works with studios like Universal, 20th Century Fox and Sony.
Facebook fan (or like) numbers are a good indicator for fan awareness for a movie, even months before the release. For mainstream movies with younger target audiences, fan counts are particularly important. However, big fan numbers can be bought and movies with older target audiences typically have lower fan counts. Fan engagement measured by PTAT (People Talking About This) is a more precise but also a fickle indicator, heavily driven by content strategy and media spending. Both are global and public-facing numbers from the official Facebook fanpage.
YouTube trailer counts are important for measuring early awareness about a movie. We track all English language original video content about the movie on YouTube, down to videos with 100 views, whether they are officially published by a studio or published unofficially by fans. The Buzz ratio looks at the percentage of unique viewers on YouTube that have “liked” a video and given it a “thumbs up.” Movies with over 40 million views are usually mainstream and set to dominate the box office, while titles drawing around 10 million indicate a more specific audience. If a movie does not have a solid number of trailer views on YouTube four weeks before its release, it is not promising news. But again, it is important to understand whether trailer views have been bought or have grown organically. These numbers are global and public-facing.
Twitter is a good real-time indicator of excitement and word of mouth, coming closer to release or following bigger PR stunts. Mainstream, comedy and horror titles all perform particularly strongly on Twitter around release. We count all tweets over the period of the last seven days before release (Friday through Thursday) that include the movie’s title plus a number of search words, e.g. “movie” or a list of movie-specific hashtags. The numbers are global, conducted using a Twitter API partner service.
Search is a solid indicator for intent moving toward release as people actively seek out titles that they are aware of and are thinking about seeing. Search is particularly significant for fan-driven franchises and family titles as parents look for information about films they may take their children to see. We look at the last seven days (Friday through Thursday) of global Wikipedia traffic as a conclusive proxy for Google Search volume. We have to consider that big simultaneous global releases tend to have higher search results compared to domestic releases.